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Last edited 16 Sep 2020
Edward Ernest Hollamby (8 January 1921 – 29 December 1999) was an English architect, town planner, and architectural conservationist. Known for designing a number of modernist housing estates in London, he also achieved notability for his work in restoring Red House, the Arts and Crafts building in Bexleyheath, Southeast London which was designed by William Morris and Philip Webb in 1859.
As the Borough Architect and then Director of Development for Lambeth in London, Edward (Ted) Hollamby was a significant figure in the development of post-war social housing.
As a young man, Hollamby was strongly influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement and in particular by William Morris; he and his family later lived in the Red House, Philip Webb’s house for Morris. Later influences included the Bauhaus, modernism pioneers and members of the MARS group (in particular Arthur Korn). These early influences inclined Hollamby from an early stage towards a view of architecture that was ‘anti-monumental, anti-stylistic and fit for ordinary people’ (E. Hollamy, The social art, p. 38).
Always socially committed, after the war Hollamby took a position in the architect’s department of the Miners Welfare Commission, helping to design pithead baths, canteens and health centres. He moved to the LCC (1949-62), serving in the Schools Division and then as one of the two senior architects in the Housing Department, with general responsibility for housing south of the Thames.
Hollamby moved to Lambeth in 1963, initially as Borough Architect and later as Director of Development. Over the following two decades, under Hollamby’s direction Lambeth acquired a national reputation for its public housing schemes. Hollamby believed that architecture is ‘a social art’, both in the way it is produced and in the purposes it is required to meet. He organised the Lambeth Architect’s Department into teams, each with its own personality and leader, and sought to bring together the maximum number of people within the department to join in the creative process (E. Hollamby, The social art, p. 43).
Hollamby saw housing as community architecture, ‘embracing the ancillary uses and forms - shops and pubs, old people’s homes, schools, health and community centres, clubs, libraries, and parks - that serve the urban needs of town dwellers’ (E. Hollamby, The social art, p. 39). The objective was not just to build housing, but to build communities (P. Rawstorne and E. Hollamby, ‘Lambeth’, RIBA J., p. 351.) He believed that the matrix should constantly vary in form and texture, and recognised the preference of most people for ‘fairly small scale, visually comprehensible environments’ (E. Hollamby, The social art, p. 39). But while he believed that housing should be reasonably modest and restrained, ‘it should never be repetitious to the point of monotony’ (Ibid, p. 41). He successfully applied all of these humanist ideas at Central Hill.
Hollamby believed the involvement of people is an integral part of architecture and town planning, and Central Hill provides a good example of how he went about that. Initially there was significant local opposition to the compulsory purchase of the Central Hill site. Hollamby and his team organised a meeting in a local pub, ‘neutral ground with no air of officialdom about it’, showed the local people the new types of housing proposed, and discussed with them their concerns about the development. The result was that the opposition evaporated. (P. Rawstorne and E. Hollamby, ‘Lambeth’, RIBA J., p. 351.) Although this sort of consultation is now commonplace, it was an innovation at the time.
Hollamby finished his career as Chief Architect and Planner to London Docklands Development Corporation (1981-85), at that time the largest urban development scheme in Europe, and thus was a significant force in the redevelopment of east London.
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